Dare to Discipline

disciplineCheck out the podcast here.

Last week we acknowledged that child discipline is a very hot topic in our culture today. We’ve got people that tell us you have to spank your kids and others that say you shouldn’t spank. We’ve got people that tell us to let our kids find their own way and don’t discipline at all. Every child will exercise their free will at some point. Not every discipline style or technique works for every child so figure out what works for your child. For the experienced parents, help new parents. If you see an out of control kid somewhere, offer some help to a parent that might just be struggling with issues you don’t know about. Rules and policies are good to have; it teaches boundaries. The hope we have in our children turning out good diminishes from year to year. Take care to raise them while there is still hope. Don’t tolerate out of control anger. If you bail someone out that is frequently angry, you’ll do it over and over again. Let them bear the penalty for their behavior. This morning, Solomon reminds us of a very important principle.

Pro. 19:20-23 says, “Listen to counsel and accept discipline, that you may be wise the rest of your days. Many plans are in a man’s heart, but the counsel of the Lord will stand. What is desirable in a man is his kindness, and it is better to be a poor man than a liar. The fear of the Lord leads to life, so that one may sleep satisfied, untouched by evil.”

Let’s do a quick review. “Listen to counsel and accept discipline, that you may be wise the rest of your days.” One of the reasons people have a hard time going to others for advice or guidance is because they’ve already made up their mind and don’t want to hear anyone disagree with them. I have experienced this time and time again. Oh Pastor Ian, I need your help. What do I do in this situation? Well, based on what Scripture says, and based on my experience, it would be wisest to . . . . Then I get all the responses about why that particular solution would not work. By the power of God, I have been transformed by the inner workings of the Holy Spirit and my thinking is not of this world. I have cultivated a biblical worldview and that’s why many times, my guidance seems so out of place in our society. No matter what anyone throws at me, I pray that I will have the wisdom necessary to respond in the most biblically accurate, compassionate, loving, merciful manner that brings glory to God. If you’re willing to take the counsel of people that walk the walk of faith, that have persevered in difficult times, that have stayed the course regardless of circumstances; if you’re willing to listen and follow guidance, Solomon says, “You may be wise the rest of your days.”

If you want to be wise in the future, listen now. Surround yourself with people that will speak the truth into your lives, that will share their wisdom with you. It is not uncommon for me to get insight from people that I love, respect, and trust. It’s not a sign of weakness, but a sign of strength. I know my limits and I don’t think I’m a failure because I seek wisdom from godly people who have been where I have been. When you have a seeking kind of desire, when you find people that will give you biblical guidance, you will gain knowledge and understanding and we know that leads to wisdom.

This is really applicable today. “Many plans are in a man’s heart, but the counsel of the Lord will stand.” Do you remember back in Pro. 16:9 when Solomon said, “The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” Planning is one of the keys to success in life. If you’re smart, you plan out your finances so that you won’t spend more than you make. Businesses have marketing plans to attract new customers. In the Navy we had short and long range training plans to make sure we were ready to face anything. We need to plan for our daily living, but planning is important in your spiritual life too. Solomon is saying that men make plans to accomplish goals, but it is, “The Lord that directs his steps.” This ties in with the ways of a man’s heart. We have lots of verses regarding the leading and guiding of the Lord. Ps. 37:23 reminds us, “The steps of a man are established by the Lord, and He delights in his way.” We’re not talking about getting from one geographic place to another. People today spend a lot of time planning out their lives.

We have wedding planners, investment planners, health care planners, financial planners, fitness planners, and life coaches so this idea of planning should be nothing new to us. Solomon is talking about seeking God and fulfilling the plans He has for you. As I’ve said before, there’s nothing wrong with making plans for your life, but God must be considered before anything else. What will you do if and when God changes your plan? Will you be willing to submit yourself to God? Regarding worldly planning, Ja. 4:14-15 says, “Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.” Are you afraid of the Lord’s will? I think it’s a valid question. Are you willing to accept His will for your life? Are you willing to trust the Lord’s plans for you? It’s easy to assume that when someone you love or respect makes plans, they must be godly. Attending church or small group or reading your Bible is no guarantee that the plans being made are godly plans.

There are “Many plans in a man’s heart, but the Lord’s counsel will stand.” Regardless of the plans we make, only what is allowed by God will occur. We have seen before in Proverbs that just because something happens does not mean it is God’s will. With all the planning and preparation we do engage in, a verse that puts our plans in perspective is found in Ps. 2:4, “He who sits in the heavens laughs, the Lord scoffs at them.” Contextually, this Psalm is talking about kings taking their stand and rulers making plans to come against the Lord’s anointed, but I think this is what happens when we come up with plans apart from the wisdom of God or those He puts in our path.

This next one is not all inclusive. “What is desirable in a man is his kindness, and it is better to be a poor man than a liar.” The real meaning of this verse doesn’t come across very clearly. The word translated desirable doesn’t mean a characteristic that is attractive in men although that may be true. The word here is a self-desire or something that a man wants for himself. It’s a way he wants to be; something he aspires to become. It is the intention to be good, kind, or loyal. It’s that desire to be kind that gives value to what the guy does. “It’s better to be a poor man than a liar.” Solomon has given us this principle before. Integrity is a character quality that cannot be taken away. Rich or poor in this world has no bearing on eternity. Everything you have here will remain here.

Here’s a familiar principle. “The fear of the Lord leads to life, so that one may sleep satisfied, untouched by evil.” Solomon is not saying you’ll never have trouble sleeping, he’s not saying evil will not cross your path at some point, but there’s an underlying principle. Fear, as in other places, is reverence for God. This reverence leads His children to live a life that glorifies Him. That can take a number of forms, but the bottom line is that your life must reflect the power of God. Each day you look more and more like Christ and less and less like your natural self. When you are focused on God, you have a tendency to let Him maintain control of the universe. Anxiousness can be a symptom of being a control freak. Don’t sweat what you cannot control. When things do happen in your life, you remember that God is in control. It’s tough to shut off your brain sometimes as you lie in your bed thinking. Have you ever been excited about how God will work something out? Have you ever been giddy about seeing God work in His time? That’s what Solomon is saying. You keep the main thing the main thing and let God work out all the difficult details.

I encourage you to read Rom. 8:31-39 that will really shed some light on this. Yes, bad things may happen in our lives, evil may cross our paths, but nothing can “separate us from the love of God.” Keep your focus on God and not on current circumstances. Before you think it, I know it can be difficult to do that in the face of such trying times. One way that will help you is to immerse yourself in God’s Word and see how the saints of old managed to stay true to God in the face of tremendous adversity.

Wisdom is not some elusive quality. You can develop wisdom by listening to the godly counsel of others. Counsel that has been developed from years of walking with God. A biblical worldview will lead to godliness for the rest of your days. Make intentional plans in your walk with God; He will reveal the path to take and be open to what He wants rather than what you want. Just because something seems good and right does not mean God wants you to do it. Being a follower of God does not mean nothing bad will ever happen in your life or the lives of those you love, but one thing is for sure. Circumstances must not dictate your love or devotion to God. God is God and He is in control no matter what life may look like at any given moment.

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The Savior’s Triumph

TriumphYou can listen to the podcast here.

Last week we looked at the mission of the Savior in part 3 of our Christmas series in Isaiah. The Savior’s mission can be summed by saying He came to do the will of the Father and that included saving people from sin by acting as the substitutionary sacrifice on the cross. Over the course of the last few weeks, we’ve seen the sign, character, and mission of the Savior. This morning we’ll finish up by examining the triumph of the Savior.

I encourage you to take the time and read Isaiah 11.

During the presidential campaign of 2008, America was introduced to a man many people believed would be the savior of America. He became our 44th president with promises of hope and change for America. We see athletes and Hollywood stars elevated to a position of greatness and their incredible wisdom is sought over such far reaching issues as global warming, national security, America’s place in the world, civil unrest, and world peace. These people have been elevated by us to a position of worship. Like America today, the nation of Judah in Isaiah’s time was looking for a Messiah. They were faced with desperate circumstances the likes of which no one had ever faced. Their king had rejected God’s clear instruction and firm promises by forming political and military alliances with the Assyrians, only to see them backfire in the worst possible way. Now, it was either going to be death or deportation.  It was only a matter of time. In such desperate times, people look for a way to escape; they look for deliverance, they look for a way out. Sometimes those desires cause us to cry out, is there anybody out there who cares? Will somebody deliver me, will somebody rescue us?  That was the thinking of the people in 700 B.C. Judah and that was the feeling last month in the elections as the American people grew tired of unfulfilled promises. Isaiah’s message gives us the final answer to those desperate cries. He emphatically declared that God would send a true Messiah. His name is Immanuel – God with us. Although in appearance He is a child, His true nature is as a wonderful Counselor, mighty God, everlasting Father, and Prince of peace. His mission is to heal the wounds of the brokenhearted, to release those enslaved by sin, and to restore what has been lost in the years wasting away without Him. All this we now know was fulfilled by Christ Jesus.

In Isaiah 11, the prophet takes us back to the future. Centuries melt away as Isaiah takes us past the birth, life, death, and resurrection of our Savior. We are taken beyond his time and ours and come to a day in the future when this same Messiah who came 2000 years ago will reign over the entire earth. Isaiah tells us what it will be like when His will is done on earth as it is in heaven. You have to wonder why the Holy Spirit wants us to see this vision of the future. Maybe it’s because we need to understand what kind of king was found in the manger of Bethlehem. During this Christmas week, will you come and worship with the shepherds and Magi, or will you dismiss the significance of this incredible birth? Jesus came from a very humble background.  He did not come from a family of incredible wealth, but from a family that was desperate to find some place just for Him to be born. The opening verse in Isaiah 11 tells us, “Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse, and a branch from his roots will bear fruit.” God is always faithful and I don’t want you to miss the significance of this. When a living tree is cut down, a shoot springs forth bringing new life. The shoot Isaiah is talking about is from the stem of Jesse. Jesse was the father of King David, Israel’s greatest king. Isaiah mentions Jesse, but not David.  I wonder why that is. Maybe it’s because God magnifies His grace in ways that we don’t. 1 Cor. 1:27-29 says, but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God.” You see, we tend to elevate the beautiful, the strong, those that are wealthy and powerful. God tends to elevate the meek, the faithful, the willing, those that seek His will. The One that would deliver the world from sin came in a very unpretentious and unpredictable manner. The Messiah would not be born into privilege. Jesse was never king so Jesus is not being born into the royal family and won’t grow up in a palace. He will not start out as royalty; He will inherit His kingdom. But Jesus will be more than an equal to King David. This baby born in Bethlehem will rise to do what no one has ever done.

Jesus will have God’s Spirit on Him in unlimited measure. Verse 2: “The Spirit of the LORD will rest on Him, The spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and strength, The spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.” We have never experienced a leader like this. The people in Isaiah’s day hadn’t either. This shoot from Jesse’s family will have the power of God on Him. He won’t try to accomplish the goals of His Father by human power – He will be controlled by the Spirit of God. The result is perfect wisdom and understanding. He will be unlike any leader in the history of the world. He doesn’t need a Cabinet of advisors. He will appoint no czars. He doesn’t need legislators or judges to help Him. He knows what needs to be done and He has the counsel and strength of the Spirit upon Him. The reign of Christ will bring every person face to face with the King. Look again at Is. 11:3-5. Christ’s rule can be summed up in three words: righteousness, fairness, and faithfulness. Each of these words is about conforming to a standard. From this passage we see that the benchmark for this final King doesn’t come from the people that are around Him. It doesn’t come from the latest research, seminar, or book. There was no election. He reigns by the authority of God and judges by the standards of God. I think the idea of these verses is not how He is going to judge mankind, but how He is going to judge each of our lives. You will be judged by reality, not by perception. He will not be swayed by emotion.  He will see you for who you really are. He will deal with you with precise justice, evaluating your life in accordance with the holiness of God. And when He pronounces His judgment, it is final. All who are made righteous by faith in Christ will be exalted.  All others, He will wipe from the face of the earth.

Nature will be turned upside down. Look at vs. 6-8. Wolf and the lamb – together. Cows and bears grazing; lion’s eating straw. Little kids will play with what used to be deadly snakes. Life becomes as it was in the Garden of Eden. The labor pains that the earth groans and suffers that Paul mentions in Romans 8:22 is over. The rest of the story is found in vs. 9-10.  All that is evil, all that is bad, all that causes pain is gone. All that caused decay and ruin is over. On that day, all crime will cease. Everybody on earth will know God. “The nations will resort to the root of Jesse” (that’s Jesus) Who will stand as a signal for the peoples” (a rallying point). “And His resting place will be glorious.”

Do you know who is born of a virgin in Bethlehem? Do you realize who you’re dealing with this Christmas? The world is divided over this child, for at His birth, God drew a line in the sand. You cannot be neutral about this baby who is called Immanuel – God with us because there is coming a day in which He will not be neutral about you. His first coming was marked by humility because He loved us so much that, though completely innocent, He willingly took the guilt of our sin and the wrath of God on the cross for our sakes. He shed His precious blood, died and was buried. But three days later, He rose from the dead by the same power of God that is available to you.  He later ascended to heaven where He patiently waits for the Father to say, “It’s time.” And then, He will come again to this earth, only it will not be in humility because the next time God, “Bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

The Heart of the Matter

TreasureYou can listen to the podcast here.

Last week we looked at the rich young ruler. He went to Jesus seeking eternal life, but his riches got in the way of an authentic relationship with Christ as a true disciple. This morning we’ll ask the question, “What do you value most in life?” When you look at where you spend the majority of your time, energy, and money, you get a true measure of your heart.

In Matt. 6:19-21 Jesus said, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Here’s the heart of the matter. Jesus has just spoken to the disciples about giving, praying, and fasting and now for something completely different. He turns His attention to the issue of treasures. Treasures and giving are two different things. He issues the command in v. 19, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.” Treasure comes from the word that means precious metals, gems, or other valuable objects. Wealth in the old days often consisted of precious metals just like today. They also valued cloth and clothing. Remember Lydia, a seller of purple in Acts 16:14. The Prov. 31 woman is clothed in fine linen and purple and her whole house is clothed in scarlet. Samson killed 30 men in Jud. 14:19 and took their clothing to pay off a debt. An Israelite who takes his neighbor’s garment in a pledge must return it before sundown, “For that is his only covering; it is his cloak for his body. What else shall he sleep in?” (Ex. 22:27) Clothing was quite the hot commodity in Bible days and was considered a treasure.

That’s why Jesus said what He said in v. 19 and it is in the present tense. He is saying stop storing up these earthly treasures. This is a practical instruction applicable to all of us. Metal rusts, even precious metal. Ja. 5:3, “Your gold and your silver have rusted; and their rust will be a witness against you and will consume your flesh like fire. It is in the last days that you have stored up your treasure!” Moths eat cloth and clothing and they didn’t have moth balls. Another danger of storing your treasure on earth is that thieves steal your stuff. A burglary takes place about every 13 seconds in the U.S. 33% of burglars enter through the front door and head right to the master bedroom. Jesus offers the contrast in v. 20, But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal.Treasure stored in heaven is safe. It won’t rust, moths won’t eat it, and nobody can steal what you put there. Matt. 16:26-27, “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and will then repay every man according to his deeds.”

So you might be asking, “How can I get treasure to store in heaven?” Great question.

Matt. 5:46, “For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?” Loving others unconditionally.
Matt. 6:6, “But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.” Prayer.
Matt. 10:42, “And whoever in the name of a disciple gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water to drink, truly I say to you, he shall not lose his reward.” Matt. 25:40, “The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’”

Serving others brings eternal reward. Why all these verses from Matthew?  He was a tax collector. It is not wrong to consider the reward for our actions.

Jesus is commanding us to store up treasure in heaven. We should consider how our actions impact eternity. Col. 1:10,  “So that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.”   1 Tim 6:18, “Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share.” Eph. 2:10, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” One of our purposes as Christians is to do good works as evidence of our transformational relationship with Christ. It is not to achieve salvation, but as a demonstration of that salvation. Rev. 22:12, “Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done.”

Jesus concludes by saying, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” If your treasure is here on earth, Jesus is saying that is where your passion will be, that’s where your thoughts will reside, and that’s where the focus of your life will be. Instead of trying to get all you can here, we should focus on spiritual riches. That sounds kind of corny in a culture that claims whoever has the most toys wins and success is based on your title, position, portfolio, or bank account, but it’s true.

If you work to have stuff, you’re missing the mark of a life changed by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. When you consider the responsibility of stewardship, an examination of the priorities of our possessions must be completed. The winner in the Christian life is not the one with the most toys. Luke 12:21, “So is the man who stores up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”

An Odd Mandate

cooltext1454834924You can listen to the podcast here.

Last week Jude told us we have a responsibility. Jude told us very simply to keep ourselves in the love of God and we saw that is an intentional, consistent pursuit of Christ. There is no tomorrow. It is a personal responsibility that cannot be transferred to another. Others can and should help us, but the responsibility rests on each of us. Adding to the responsibility to, “Keep yourselves in the love of God,” Jude tells us to do something else in v. 21b. In the second half of verse Jude 21 he says, “Waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life.”

It’s another straight forward command yet seems a bit odd. Jude begins by telling us to, “Keep yourselves in the love of God.” Then he says we are to be, “Waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life.” “Waiting anxiously for” seems to be an oxymoron, but in the original Greek it is one word. Jude tells us to play the game none of us wants to play. It is the waiting game. You’ve heard people say, “I have no patience for that.” We even hear this in the church. Particularly when seeking someone to serve in the nursery or some other aspect of dealing with children. In Gal. 5:22-23 Paul emphatically says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” As children of God, Paul is saying we have these qualities. In the context of Gal. 5, Paul is contrasting the flesh with the Spirit. His conclusion is that, “Those that belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passion and desires.” Some of us are better at waiting than other people. Some people are extraordinarily patient, but the expectation is that every Christian is supposed to be patient. One way that we grow and develop these qualities is to, “Keep ourselves in the love of God.” Again, it is a consistent, intentional process.

What are we waiting anxiously for? The word waiting is eschatological. It points to the end times and is sometimes translated looking. We see this idea of waiting  from others in Scripture too.

Mark 15:43, “Joseph of Arimathea came, a prominent member of the Council, who himself was waiting for the kingdom of God; and he gathered up courage and went in before Pilate, and asked for the body of Jesus.”
Luke 2:25, “And there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; and this man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel; and the Holy Spirit was upon him.”
Luke 2:37-38 referring to Anna, “And then as a widow to the age of eighty four, she never left the temple, serving day and night with fastings and prayer. At that very moment she came up and began giving thanks to God, and continued to speak of Him to all those who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.”
Titus 2:13, “Looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus.”

We wait just as the saints of old waited.

So what are we waiting anxiously for, with eager anticipation for? Jude says we wait for the, “Mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life.” Back in v. 2 Jude prayed that his readers would have, “Mercy and peace multiplied” to them. Mercy is not getting what we deserve. Our children sometimes beg for mercy. Criminals will throw themselves on the mercy of the court. Often when it comes to us, we want mercy and not justice. 2 Cor. 1:3 says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort.”   Jude wants us to wait for God’s mercy and that mercy will not be fully realized until Christ’s return. God is merciful to His children and He’s merciful to those that curse Him. Matt. 5:7, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.”

We wait until Jesus returns. How can we wait, how can we finish well? As I mentioned earlier, waiting is not a game many of play well. Sometimes our impatience manifests itself in prayer. We’ve prayed for something and we don’t get the answer, or don’t get the answer we want and for some reason that causes us to doubt. Jude taught that we are to keep ourselves in the love of God. We must remain in the love of God until the end, until Jesus returns or until we die. There is no quitting, no giving up, no giving in. We fight the good fight. We finish the course. We keep the faith.

Jude, among others, didn’t believe that we would achieve a state of perfection in this world. We look forward to the mercy of God because we will need it when we stand before Him. We maintain ourselves in God’s love to minimize the influence and corruption of the world. As we’ll see in the coming verses, authentic believers cannot remain in God’s love and be immersed in the world. If you don’t keep your eyes on God and eternity, you’ll find yourself slowly slipping away. If Jesus truly lives in your heart, there should be a hunger, a passion, a supernatural desire and ability to follow Him.

Good News for 2014

2014

You can listen to the podcast here.

Rom. 10:13-15 says, “for “Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news of good things!”

Notice the words in v.15, “Good news of good things.”

As has become my habit, I looked at what the Associated Press said were their top stories of 2013. There were some items that people will consider good news and other items not so good. Maybe some would consider it all bad. Without further comment,

Here are the top news stories of 2013 according to AP.

1. HEALTH CARE OVERHAUL: The White House had hoped the Oct. 1 launch of open enrollment would be a showcase for the upside of Obama’s much-debated overhaul. Instead, the website became a symbol of dysfunction, providing Republicans and late-night comics with ammunition, and worrying the president’s Democratic allies. The site gradually improved, but a wave of cancellation notices from insurers undercut Obama’s oft-repeated promise that people who liked their existing coverage could keep it.

2. BOSTON MARATHON BOMBING: In seconds, a scene of celebration transformed into one of carnage, as two bombs exploded near the finish line of the Boston Marathon in April. Three people were killed and more than 260 injured, including at least 16 who lost limbs. Authorities soon identified two suspects — 26-year-old Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who died in a shootout with police, and his brother, Dzhokhar, 20, who faces multiple charges, including 17 that carry a possible death penalty. Though jolted by the bombings and a subsequent lockdown, the city rallied under the slogan “Boston Strong.”

3. VATICAN CHANGEOVER: Pope Benedict XVI stunned Catholics around the world with his announcement in February that he would resign. The cardinal elected to succeed him, soon known as Pope Francis, proceeded to captivate many Catholics and non-Catholics alike with a new tone of openness, modesty and tolerance. Without challenging core church doctrine, he suggested it was time to rethink policy on divorce, focus more on serving the poor, and devote less rhetoric to condemnations of gay marriage and abortion.

4. DIVIDED CONGRESS: Opinion polls showed Congress with historically low approval ratings, and the key reason was seemingly intractable partisan conflict. Among the consequences were the harsh automatic spending curbs known as sequestration, the partial shutdown of the government in October, and bitterness in the Senate after the Democrats used their majority to reduce the Republicans’ ability to stall presidential nominations via filibusters.

5. NSA SPYING: The ripple effect continues, seven months after the world learned of Edward Snowden. The former NSA analyst leaked vast troves of secret documents detailing NSA surveillance operations, including programs that collected Americans’ phone records and eavesdropped on allied leaders. After a stay in Hong Kong, Snowden spent a month in Moscow’s airport before obtaining asylum in Russia. The leaks have roiled diplomacy, triggered lawsuits and calls for reform, and prompted warnings that terrorists could benefit from the disclosures.

6. GAY MARRIAGE: Capping decades of activism, the gay-rights movement won a monumental victory in June in the form of two Supreme Court decisions. One cleared the way for ending a ban on same-sex marriages in California, the most populous state. The other struck down a 1996 law passed by Congress that banned federal recognition of same-sex marriages. In subsequent months, Hawaii, Illinois and New Mexico boosted the number of states allowing gay marriage to 17.

7. NELSON MANDELA: A freedom fighter, a political prisoner, a statesman revered for preaching reconciliation in a nation torn by racial strife. Nelson Mandela was all that and more — the icon of the anti-apartheid movement and South Africa’s first black president. With his death at the age of 95, his compatriots, world leaders and countless other admirers mourned the loss of a one-of-a-kind hero.

8. PHILIPPINES TYPHOON: There were dire warnings beforehand, but the toll wreaked by Typhoon Haiyan was still stunning in its scope after it struck on Nov. 8. More than 6,000 people died; hundreds more remain missing. The typhoon damaged or destroyed the homes of more than 16 million people, with rebuilding expected to take years.

9. SYRIA: The death toll mounted inexorably, past 120,000, as Syria’s nearly 3-year-old civil warfare raged on with no signs of resolution. The government of Bashar Assad did agree to eliminate its chemical weapons, but prospects for peace talks were complicated by infighting among anti-government rebels. Nearly 9 million Syrians have been uprooted from their homes, with many of them seeking refuge abroad.

10. MISSING WOMEN FOUND: The call for help came on May 6, and the revelations that followed were gripping and grim. A former bus driver, Ariel Castro, had abducted three women from the streets of Cleveland from 2002 to 2004 when they were 14, 16 and 20. He periodically kept them chained, restricted access to food and toilets, and repeatedly raped and assaulted them until their escape. Castro pleaded guilty to multiple charges, and in September, faced with life in prison, hanged himself in his cell.

Those are just the top stories and much of it is bad news. That’s the problem, we thrive on bad news. As Christians, we’ve got the news that is always good. It’s good that Jesus came to earth, lived a sinless life, and shed His blood on the cross at Calvary. It’s good Jesus died, but three days later conquered death and rose from the grave and was seen by the multitudes. It’s good that Jesus ascended to heaven where He sits at the rights hand of the Father making intercession for us.

Jesus said, “Because I live, you shall live also.”

As we think about the New Year, there’s going to be negative things or bad news that will be recognized at the end of the year. As Christians, let’s not focus on the bad or negative, let’s focus on the positive. Good news should be what God’s people think about.  When we get to the end of next year I am sure there will be several things as we look back in reflection that we can truly say were, “good news of good things.”

As I look forward to the coming year, I think of several things that I would like to have take place: I’d like to see people truly give their life to Christ. It’s clear that this is what God wants: 1 Tim. 2:4 says, “Who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” In America, we have decided that sin is relative. There is no standard of conduct, but the Bible if very clear that we have a sin problem. Rom. 3:23 says, “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” Is. 64:6 says, “For all of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; And all of us wither like a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.” But that doesn’t mean God has given up on us. God draws us to Him through the power of the Spirit. Jo. 6:44 says, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.” God made a way through Christ. 2 Cor. 5:21 says, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” We have been justified in Christ: we are declared righteous based on the merits of Jesus. We have been sanctified: Christ’s righteousness is applied to each of us every single day.  It’s our responsibility to make sure that everyone knows they’re welcome at the foot of the cross. Jo. 6:37 says, “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.” “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.”  (2 Pet. 3:9) “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”  (Jo. 3:16) You don’t have to be a certain way to get Christ, come as you are.

I’d like to see God’s people passionate about ministry. Is. 44:22 says, “I have wiped out your transgressions like a thick cloud and your sins like a heavy mist. Return to Me, for I have redeemed you.” We need to turn back to the Lord. Why? We have a tendency to take things for granted. The things of God become common place so we look for what is new, what is flashy. There must be something better, something new and improved. We’re looking to be entertained. Some people would have you believe that man does not exist for God’s benefit, but that God exists for man’s benefit. God becomes this great provider in the sky rather than the One who is worthy of our worship. We are looking for God to serve us rather than for us to serve Him. A general commitment to Christ substitutes for repentance. Simple profession replaces transformation. Emotional feelings replace true worship. We tend to be foolish. Matt. 6:24 says, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” To put anything above the Lord is foolish, but we do it all the time. I think few people would admit that, but our actions speak louder than our words. I’d like to see people get more involved in the opportunities we have here. We tend to be impatient which further separates us from God. Fewer and fewer people are willing to work hard. Fewer and fewer people make themselves available to do the hard, stressful, and emotionally draining work of the ministry. Fewer and fewer people are willing to persevere. We have become social media Christians. We’ll post that we’re praying for people, post Scripture, retweet Christian articles, but that’s the extent of it.

I’d like God’s people resist Satan. James says, “Submit yourselves therefore to God.  Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”  (Ja. 4:7) We cannot resist the devil in our own strength. We must first submit ourselves to God. Then we can stand against Satan in the strength and might of the Lord Himself. Resist his destructive plans. Satan is a destroyer. He will try to destroy your home, your church relationship, your testimony, etc. Once you say yes to Satan, it becomes easier the next time, and easier. Satan’s way is never good, but unfortunately, even Christians don’t see his subtlety.

Finally, I’d like to see Jesus come back in 2014. Phil. 3:20 says, “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” Jesus promised in Jo. 14:3, “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.” We’re too attached to this temporary home. We work to have things that will pass away. We spend the majority of our time on things that have no bearing on eternity.

What do you want to hear and see by the end of next year? How many will you share Christ with? How will you serve the Lord by serving others? Who will you invest your time in? Who will you make yourself available to? How much better will you know Christ? How much will you grow? How will your faith be strengthened? Will you live the life of holiness God has called you to live? How authentic will you be?

New Expectations

NewYou can listen to the podcast here.

Last week Peter told us what was going to happen when Jesus returned on the Day of Judgment. He doesn’t waiver from the fact that Jesus’ return is going to happen despite what the false teachers and the mockers say. Mass destruction will occur and it will affect the heavens and the earth. This destruction is for the ungodly; as Christians, we will be protected. The best way to offer protection from the impending destruction is to tell people about Jesus so they can make a decision to follow Christ. This morning, Peter looks to new things.

2 Pet. 3:11-13 says, Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat! But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells.”

Before he gets going, Peter offers a quick recap. Peter is very methodical in his arguments and would have made a great lawyer. In vs. 5-7, he presented three arguments against the mockers and why they’re incorrect in their conclusions. In vs. 8-9 he gave us the key to understanding the timeline of Jesus’ return. In v. 10 he explained what would happen to the heavens and the earth. After presenting all that evidence, he arrives at a conclusion in vs. 11-12. Since all these things are going to pass, Peter reiterates his expectations from 1:5-7. The delay in the return of Christ gives us more opportunities to live the life that is expected of us in order for the Holy Spirit to draw more people to God through Jesus Christ.

Peter says we ought to be a certain way. We ought to have holiness and godliness as a routine essence of our lives. There are too many people that profess a relationship with Christ that do not have any attributes of Christ. Over and over Peter, as well as others in Scripture, says it does matter how we act and what we look like and what we engage in and what we spend our time and money on. Notice in this verse Peter is referring to our conduct. Our conduct is a barometer of our spiritual lives. If we act ungodly, the reasonable conclusion is we are ungodly. 1 Tim. 6:11, “But flee from these things, you man of God, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness.” The only way we can truly be godly is because of what Christ has done and what He does in our lives. The only way we can be holy is because God is holy. 1 Pet. 1:15, “But like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior.” Holy means being dedicated to God; morally and spiritually excellent. Our standard is not the world or our friends. It’s not even others in the church; our standard is God; it is Jesus and we are enabled by the Holy Spirit to live a life that glorifies God in all we think, say, and do. This is not some unattainable, lofty, pie in the sky idea. Every Christian must be pursuing godliness and holiness.

There’s something else we need to be doing so what’s next? Peter continues looking at the future by telling us what to do right now. In verse 12 Peter says, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat!We must be looking to the future coming of the Lord, but it should affect us in the days that we live. Since Jesus is coming back and since we don’t know exactly when, we don’t have the luxury to sit on a mountain top somewhere staring at the clouds. The Thessalonians were confused about the second coming and Paul took some time in his letters to explain it. They thought they missed it and it affected their thinking and as a result, their behavior. We need to be, “Looking for and hastening for the day of God.” To help you understand what he saying, think about something you’re looking forward to. It could be the end of the work day, the arrival of a loved one, an upcoming birth, Christmas, something you’re anticipating. It affects your behavior: you look at the clock, you look out the window, you look at your watch. You just can’t wait and maybe you get butterflies in your stomach; you may not be able to sleep; there’s an excited nervousness because you just can’t wait. That’s the way we should be about the Lord’s return. Since we’re so excited and eagerly anticipating His return, our excitement should be infectious. The gravity of the second coming should push us to tell others about Christ and our lives should exemplify His transforming power so that others would be drawn to us and listen to us when we open our mouths and be engaged in true discipleship in the spirit of Matt. 28:19 as a church and 1 Pet. 3:15 as individuals.

Why be excited? Peter tells us in v. 13, But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells.” This is the new heavens and the new earth. These will be uncorrupted by a sinful humanity. Is. 65:17, “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former things will not be remembered or come to mind.” We won’t long for our old earth. In Rev. 21:1 John said, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea.” What an incredible sight to behold. All the anticipation of eternity coming to pass in this moment. The awesomeness is found in Rev. 21:27, “And nothing unclean, and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” This is a perfect place reserved for those that have made a decision for Christ.

We get so excited when our children make the honor roll or our team wins. We put such high emphasis on these things that are so temporary, but we are so blasé about the opportunity to spend eternity in heaven with the Trinity. We need to stop taking God for granted in all that He does for us and in us and through us. It’s time to take back the world.

Our Future (1 Peter, Part 3)

You can listen to the podcast here.

Last week we saw Peter’s encouragement to obey and we looked at our hope, this morning we’ll find out about our future regardless of our current circumstances.

1 Peter 1:3-9 says, Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls.”

As we look at our future, we have an inheritance that is imperishable. We have been sprinkled by the blood of Christ which means God has adopted us through Jesus. Christians are adopted children of God. Ephesians 1:5 says, “He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will.” We are God’s heirs. Romans 8:17 “And if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.” Galatians 3:29 “And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise.” Titus 3:7 “So that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” An heir generally doesn’t do anything to deserve the inheritance; they receive an inheritance because of who they belong to. As Christians, we have an inheritance because we belong to God. The inheritance is given to us because God loves us. Our inheritance is imperishable. The inheritance is undefiled. It is pure, spotless, not held because of dishonesty. There are no legal battles to ensure we get our inheritance. It will not fade away. Unlike the laurel wreaths given to winners of the Olympic Games, our inheritance will not wilt or die. The crown of glory you will be given will not fade, it will not diminish, and it will not tarnish as things we inherit on earth do. Don’t be confused though, our inheritance is not given to us on this earth, our inheritance is reserved in heaven. There is no such thing as heaven on earth. If you Google “Heaven on Earth,” you’ll get over 15 million hits. I looked at the first several pages and few deal with spirituality. Some were for photography, some for spas, and some for finding spirituality. Some were dedicated to new age or eastern religions. There is nothing on this planet that can compare with the glory and splendor of heaven.

Peter goes on to say in verse 5, “Reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” We are protected or kept by the power of God. The word picture painted here is that God protects us as though we were in a military installation.  It is a safe haven. The only reason we are protected is through the power and might of God. The conduit for God’s strength is our faith. As long as we exercise our faith in God, we are safe. Remember what Jesus said in Matthew 17:20, “if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you.” It doesn’t take great faith for God to work, but it does take some. We must endure and persevere until the end to see the inheritance that is reserved for us. Our inheritance is prepared, it is ready, but it is in heaven. It will be revealed when Jesus comes again, when the last day arrives.

In v. 6, Peter says, “In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials.” We must maintain our focus on the inheritance. We are to be exceedingly joyful over our secure place in heaven. No matter our current circumstances, we should maintain our eyes on the prize. Think of anything that you strive for. The work, effort, and struggle that you put into something pales in comparison to achieving the goal. Even though we all experience trials and difficulties and persecutions, the reward is worth the effort. It takes work to endure suffering. No one likes to suffer.  No one likes to have difficulties. It is part of our life here on earth and Peter is encouraging us to keep our focus on the inheritance that is ours. These trials last only for a short while.

Look at verse 7, “So that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” The proof of our faith is more precious than gold. Faith that is not tested is not faith at all. When faith is exercised, it grows; it becomes stronger. God is able to do what you ask of Him.  Nothing is too hard for God. When you step out on faith, you rely on the one thing that cannot fail, that will not fail, that will never let you down. When exercising faith, you rely on God’s power, not your own. We do have personal responsibility to pray, study, meditate on God’s word, etc., but when you trust God, you unleash a power that cannot be contained. The bottom line is that when you don’t exercise faith, you don’t trust God. Peter is saying that when the hard times come; when the trials come, and you are standing firm on the power of God, you, “may be found to result in praise and glory and honor.” It is not the trial that produces the praise and glory of Christ; it is the way we respond to the trial.

Remember whom Peter is writing. He’s writing to strangers scattered abroad. They did not have the privilege of walking and talking with Christ as Peter had; yet they loved Him. They heard of His greatness, His character, His teachings, His sacrifice for sin, His resurrection, and His ascension. They heard all about Christ and even though they’ve never seen Him, they love Him. Christ has done more for us than any other one who ever lived. He died for us, to redeem our souls; he rose, and brought life and immortality to those that would believe. He lives to intercede for us in heaven. He is preparing mansions in heaven for us. Jesus is a Savior that ought to be loved. The love of Christ is so strong that people have been willing to die for His name’s sake. People willing to go to the ends of the earth to preach His name. Verse 8 goes on to say, “Though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory.” Jesus is at the right hand of the Father. He is not visible to the human eye. Our belief in Him should be just as strong as if we’ve seen Him with our own eyes. In John 20:29 Jesus told Thomas, “Because you have seen Me, have you believed?  Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.” Some might say, “If I could just talk to Christ and see Him, I’d believe.” The reality is that even if this did happen, people still would not believe. Abraham told the rich man in Luke 16:31, “If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.” 2 Cor. 5:7 reminds us that we, “Walk by faith, not by sight.” Verse 9 concludes by saying, “obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls.” The result of your faith is salvation. That is what we have to look forward to. This is our confidence.

We need faith to make it. That’s why we share testimonies of what God is doing in our lives. He is at work even though we cannot see Him. We must trust that His plans are for us to prosper. Do not let the circumstances of this life get you down. When we continue to walk by faith, our future is bright.